Katy Perry, Becky G, Ferras Toyota Center October 10, 2014
There are moments in Katy Perry's Prismatic World tour that may make you utter "wow" out loud. They're few and far between, but every few songs something genuinely impressive happens.
That the rest of the show doesn't live up to these moments is just fine, because it's a seriously fun, familiar production. There's nothing particularly groundbreaking or innovative -- unless you count giant floating emoji or maybe-racist mummies as either of those -- and that's OK too, because when you think groundbreaking and/or innovative, Katy Perry probably doesn't come to mind.
She doesn't have to be. Perry is the antidote to the times when pop music gets a bit too full of itself, a reminder that sometimes people would rather have a good time than appreciate high art. She's the blockbuster of the modern pop landscape.
Which makes it all the weirder that the show, massive and fun as it was, didn't feel particularly special.
You expect things at Toyota Center to be loud, especially when one of the biggest names in pop comes to town and sells out the building twice. At that level, you expect something close to rapture.
Instead, it was a mostly polite, chill affair. Sure, there were some big singalong moments here and there -- people really dug her acoustic take of "The One That Got Away" -- and there was the standard "we're in the seats so we can't jump up and down properly but will do our best" moves standard at any arena show, but by and large it felt like the crowd never really exploded the way one might expect.
You can't put any of the blame on that on Perry. Other than once when things got a bit too chatty as she discussed gardening, she gave the crowd all manner of things to be entertained by. There was a giant screen, dancers, giant floating emoji, multiple costume changes, a rip off of Joey the war horse, an aerial sequence like something straight out of Cirque du Soleil, a gigantic lighting rig, and so on and so forth.
It really did feel like Perry and company were doing their best to make sure the crowd got what they paid for, and yet the crowd never really gave back in the way you might expect.
A hypothesis: Katy Perry is the blank of the current generation of pop stars, a diva with no gimmick.
Story continues on the next page.
Most pop stars who roll through the Toyota Center have personalities that have a hook. Lady Gaga is wacky. Kanye has a big ego. Rihanna doesn't give a damn what you think about her. Timberlake is the coolest man alive. One Direction are dreamy. Whether or not these things are actually true is irrelevant; those are the roles that they play. Those are the personas they want us to know.
And who is Katy Perry? Sure we know about her personal life and that she likes cats, but what trope is she? What box do we easily put her into?
Maybe there isn't one.
Maybe that lack of an emotional hook is what keeps the audience at an excited distance. Perry comes off as someone who is extremely easy to like, but not necessarily someone you would claim as your favorite.
Or maybe it was just an example of a Houston crowd being a Houston crowd. Sometimes it doesn't matter how well-crafted a blockbuster is; a subpar crowd can bring a great flick down to its level.
But hey, there is some good news. There's a place that would just eat this show up, the mixture of solid pop jams and stage spectacle. When the time is right, Katy Perry will feel right at home in Vegas, even if she doesn't play "Waking Up in Vegas" anymore.
So, How Was the Opener? Lest it sound like I'm picking on Becky G, rather than focus on the fact that her set wasn't very good, let us focus on the fact that she's young and, God willing, she'll get better. Ever been to a workout class where the instructor played a generic dance music CD the entire time, one where none of the songs stood out but it was OK background noise? That's basically Becky G, except the CD is probably more charismatic. This is a tour that had Capital Cities, Kacey Musgraves and Tegan and Sara as openers at different points, so really, what did we do so wrong to get this?
Ferras also opened, and one he got past the first few songs he was quite enjoyable. His songs sound like something a '80s pop diva would tear in to, and if he ever wanted to start doing Whitney Houston covers I'd be totally on board.
Personal Bias: In the great pop wars of 2014, I'm Team Swift, but I do have a soft spot in my heart for "Teenage Dream" as long as 5 Seconds of Summer isn't performing it.
The Crowd: Lots of people embracing the opportunity to wear weird outfits and wigs.
Overheard In the Crowd: "That's so basic, Emily." Real glad that word is taking off now that ratchet has seemed to stall out.
Notebook Cell-phone Dump: This is a thing that happened:
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